Arsenal Vs Manchester United: Highlights and analysis from pulsating loss

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Jesse Lingard of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his sides second goal with his Manchester United team mates during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on December 2, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Jesse Lingard of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his sides second goal with his Manchester United team mates during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on December 2, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) /

Arsenal hosted Manchester United on Saturday evening as the Premier League rolled on. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis of the 3-1 loss.

What a weird and wacky loss that was. After just 11 minutes, Arsenal found themselves 2-0 down. It was a deficit that they were unable to overcome, not through any fault of their own necessarily. The huffed and they puffed, but the house just would not blow down. Arsene Wenger and his players deserved better. They did not get it.

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The first half started in disastrous fashion. Arsenal actually looked quite fluent in possession, fizzing the ball around with precision and tempo. Too fluent, in fact. Because they slumped into complacency, and that cost them. Twice.

The first culprit was Laurent Koscielny. A wayward pass across the front of the defence was intercepted by Antonio Valencia, nipping in front of Sead Kolasinac. An exchange of passes with Paul Pogba, which saw four Arsenal defenders attracted to the ball, leaving the Ecuadorian with time and space in the box to take a touch, set himself, and fire a low shot through legs of the desperate Nacho Monreal block and Petr Cech save, who perhaps could have done better to deflect it away with his feet.

The second mistake came just seven minutes later. Shkodran Mustafi dallied on the ball, Jesse Lingard stole it from him, and a nice move involving Romelu Lukaku, who Mustafi should have fouled when he had the opportunity to kill the attack, and a wonderful Anthony Martial spin and flick, led to Lingard sliding the finish off the far post and past the helpless Petr Cech. 2-0. 11 minutes. Game over, seemingly.

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But that was far from the case. Although at halftime Arsenal still hadn’t scored, that was not for the want of trying. At the break, they had had 71% possession, had 15 shots, seven of which were on target, hit the post, hit the crossbar, and forced multiple last-ditch blocks from the United defence. It was downright astonishing that they hadn’t scored.

Alexandre Lacazette could have had a hattrick, seeing one effort sounded out by a scrambled David de Gea, with the shot eventually careering off the crossbar — Granit Xhaka would proceed to clip the post with his rebounded attempt to end the goalmouth scramble. De Gea made a remarkable save from Romelu Lukaku, who was tangled up with Granit Xhaka at the back post from a set piece, while Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil all had strong opportunities denied at the last second, whether it be a block, a save, or a mere unfortunate bounce of the ball.

United did create openings at the other end, with Romelu Lukaku looking to peel onto Nacho Monreal. But they were unable to connect consistently. And by the end of the half, Arsenal were the utterly dominant side. It wasn’t even close. The only stat that counts, however, is the score, and it was irrefutable. United were two goals to the good; Arsenal had a long way to go.

Thankfully, they started the second half exactly how they needed to. With a quick goal. Alexis Sanchez waited with the ball on the edge of the box. Aaron Ramsey ghosted in behind, received a beautifully clipped pass, before trying to bring it down, perhaps for himself, perhaps for Alexandre Lacazette, who was stood just behind him. Either way, the ball fell perfectly for Lacazette who set himself and planted the shot into the roof of the net. Just what was needed.

But Arsenal did not stop there. They continued to press for the United goal, carving open their visitors, rather than one key man, namely David de Gea, seemingly at will. There were warnings at the other end, as Petr Cech had to brilliantly deny Jesse Lingard, with the shot deflecting off the post, before Nacho Monreal blocking Anthony Martial’s rebound on the goal line. But Arsenal were unrelenting.

Alex Iwobi fired a number of shots on goal, all of which were parried clear by de Gea, before the Spanish goalkeeper then made the game-changing play. Alexandre Lacazette controlled the ball with his back to goal, span on a dime, and fired a shot in low towards the near post. De Gea brilliantly got down low to his right, palming the ball clear with a strong right hand, before leaping up and defying Sanchez’s rebound with his feet.

That was the best chance of the second half for Arsenal. Had they scored, it might have been a very, very different game. They didn’t. Just seven minutes later, and United all but put the game to bed. Breaking on the Arsenal defence, United were able to slide Paul Pogba free down the right flank. Laurent Koscielny went over to try and deal with the Frenchman, but he allowed himself to get rolled around the outside, and with Jesse Lingard ghosting in behind Granit Xhaka at the back post, Pogba laid the pass on a plate for him to pop the ball into the empty net.

But then, in another twist in what was quickly becoming the best game of the season, Paul Pogba, who had up, until that point, been the best player on the pitch, offered a little glimmer of hope. A loose touch meant that he had to stretch to keep hold of possession. In doing so, his studs flashed up, before planting onto Hector Bellerin’s leg, who had laid it out in a barrier formation to block the midfielder’s progress. It was a clear red card.

Arsenal continued to press for late hope. They did have a couple of decent penalty shouts, especially the first that saw Danny Welbeck dragged down by a trailing Matteo Darmian leg, which on another day could have gone their way. Aaron Ramsey flashed a half-volley over the bar in stoppage time, which was a chance that he should have got on target. But, for the most part, they were too narrow to ever create anything clear-cut.

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This was, above all else, a brilliant game of football. Arsenal deserved much more than they got. But that is football. Sometimes you don’t get what you deserve. The performance was good. The result was not. That’s life.